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The Art of Liturgical Floral Design 

 A Ministry of Flowers 

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not see it?” – Isaiah 43:18-19.

Doing a new thing…with open eyes, heart, mind and spirit, following a quest that has been set before me to explore the concept of floral displays as a form of liturgical design the same as religious paintings, sculptures and stained glass.

There are many references to plants in the Old and New Testaments in metaphoric, parabolic and symbolic forms. The artistic and aesthetic dimensions of a floral composition can be used to express biblical stories, scriptures or ideas. I believe that with careful attention this art form may lend us to new stirrings of God’s grace.

The same elements and principles of design that govern all forms of art including religious art also apply to floral arrangements. One major difference is that a floral composition is temporal, living only a few hours to a few days where other art forms may become timeless. Despite being temporal, the viewer’s response may be sacramental in nature and the experience may last a lifetime.  Because of the temporal nature of a floral arrangement it may evoke a sense of the beyond and eternal in the here and now. I call liturgical floral design sacramental for this reason.

The floral designer must not only have the technical skills to execute the work of art so that it is artistically and aesthetically complete; but must allow their inner being, their Spirit to become a part of the composition. I trust the Spirit guiding my ideas and thoughts through the design process. The development of a concept, its symbolism, the choice of materials and technical execution may be very vivid in my eyes but the creativity which is a part of it elevates the composition to unexpected levels and takes the viewer in new places.

 Interpretative floral displays can function as an aid by making the spoken or written word visible. The objective is not to put emphasis on the floral composition but rather to help comprehend the message being conveyed. Many interpretative concepts are symbolic in nature, using plants or accessories to create a physical impression of a thought, an idea or belief. The use of floral symbolism has a two-fold benefit: first by making the spoken or written word visual and second by enhancing our understanding how symbolism is used in the bible.

 When using interpretative or symbolic floral displays in a service, an explanation of the concept or symbolism is very important. Without this explanation the viewer may not comprehend the designers concept. But with knowledge of the earthly symbolic elements designed by God we are led to God. Liturgical floral art may evoke different sacramental responses in the heart of the viewer including increasing our awareness of the divine. Flowers, a gift given to us can become a window through which the viewer may see God’s grace.  

The ministry of flowers not only deals with the artistic impression and interpretations of floral arrangements that are placed on the chancel or through out the sanctuary, but also on the sacred aspects that one may perceive when viewing the composition or display. The Spirit of God stirs the imagination and interpretations of the floral designer, revealing concepts or ideas that are ideal for the composition. That same Spirit can touch the heart of the viewer who may see more than just a beautiful floral display, but will see through the display to the beauty and love of God and all his creation, a sacrament of his creation. Flowers and plants are a gift that not only sustains life but also should be used in worship and praise of the creator of life.

Ned L. Davis

On November 6, 2005 in a special commissioning ceremony Ned Davis became the first Commissioned Minister of Liturgical Floral Design in the United Church of Christ in the United States.


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